Cork firm with the tech to oil the energy wheels

ARQ has a technology to help keep wind turbines and other machinery working, writes Trish Dromey.

Cork start-up ARQ Asset Solutions plans to revolutionise industrial maintenance in Ireland with a smart green technology designed to reduce the risk machinery breaking down and cutting back on maintenance costs and oil usage.

The company has plans to develop global exports with its monitoring solution which is set to have its first full-scale test on a wind turbine in Scotland this summer. It plans to start selling into the market from the summer in 2020.

“Our technology is designed to continually monitor the condition of machinery and can reduce the cost of maintenance for our customers by up to 30%,” said company co-founder Conor O’Sullivan, who explains that the technology is “green” because it can reduce oil consumption and improve the carbon footprint of the companies using it.

The first Irish company to develop this type of solution, and one of only a handful in the world, ARQ is entering a global market which is valued at $3bn (€2.7bn).

“This technology is only in its infancy — it has been forecast that this market will be worth $11bn by 2023,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

ARQ plans to start developing sales in Ireland and the UK by targeting the wind energy market, as well as the marine sector and the pharmaceutical industry, which are businesses in which machinery has a very high value.

“Our ambition is to develop global exports and by 2021, we expect to have sales in Europe, North America, and Canada,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

He said the key to keeping machinery in good order is to keep the lubricating oils in good condition.

During their careers as engineers with the Irish Naval Service, he and fellow founder Ronan Carey, identified poor oil condition as a source of major problems. It wasn’t widely recognised that such problems could cause repeated breakdowns and reduce the lifespan of the equipment.

Tasked to look after the naval fleet working on a humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean, they focussed on maintaining oils in good condition and helped prevent the ships from losing a single day of service.

Realising that this could have commercial applications, they began making plans to set up a company offering their expertise in oil lubrication to marine and pharmaceutical companies.

As engineers without commercial experience, they began by enrolling in a start your own business course at South Cork Local Enterprise Office.

Setting up in Blackrock in mid-2016, the founders offered training in lubrication management, oil condition monitoring and specialised root cause analysis and corrective solution.

We started with a consultancy but decided that we could do something bigger. We had knowledge which we knew could apply to the creation of an exportable product.

Encouraged by their LEO which gave them a feasibility grant, and by Enterprise Ireland, which provided €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding, ARQ took on some contract developers and set to work on developing a sensor which could monitor machinery condition remotely and continuously.

They very quickly identified the wind energy market as offering the best immediate potential.

The British government is about to make a major investment in wind energy, and, in Ireland, wind energy is seen as the best way of reaching alternative energy targets, said Mr O’Sullivan.

ARQ is looking at selling to on-shore and off-shore wind sites.

“We are also planning to supply floating wind energy turbines which are being developed as the next generation of wind power,” he said.

Once the final field testing of the third version is complete, ARQ plans to have the kit made under contract in Ireland.

“Our aim is to market the product directly, gain some traction and secure investment to develop the company,” said Mr O’Sullivan, explaining that ARQ plans to raise €500,000 early next year. The company already has a major wind turbine developer lined up as the company’s first customer.

To date, around €100,000 has been invested in ARQ. “Long term we aim to have global customers for which we will monitor the condition of their high-value machinery from Ireland.”